Interview: Kalani Apsara & Madhurya Dhanasekara
A club will always need to manage its changing face in public, a task which is in itself no small feat. However, this seems to be an activity that you ladies simply breeze through with little to no difficulty or so it would seem to us anyway! To those out there that may not be familiar with the both of you, could you please give an introduction about yourselves and what it is that you do at Rotaract?
Kalani: I would like to introduce myself as Kalani Apsara, the Public Relations Coordinator for the year 2021 – 2022. As you all know “Public Relations” is maintaining a favourable public image of an organization and that’s what we do here at Rotaract Arts as well. We are responsible for maintaining the relationship that exists between the club and the public. To put it simply, we make the public familiar with the progress of the club. We do it in a variety of ways but mainly through the club’s social media presence.
Madhurya: Hi, I am Madhurya Dhanasekara and I served this Rotaract Year as the IT director in RACFOAUOC. I’m responsible for managing our two social media accounts on Facebook and Instagram.
They say that managing a club/organization’s public image is both a sensitive and challenging matter. Do you agree? If so, what would you say are some areas that any office bearer/board member in charge of PR should be aware of when managing the club’s social image?
Kalani: It is quite true. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was really challenging because everyone was confined at home and the only means of presenting the club progress was through social media platforms. As the only way the club could reach the public was via social media, we had to be careful in sharing club news. We had to put extra effort to make the public aware of the club’s work. So, having a sense of creativity and a skill to think out of the box will be really helpful for any office bearer related to PR.
Madhurya: Yeah, I agree. This is because we had to always perform the PR for any given event or activity on time and there just was no space for mistakes! Obviously it is not like doing a job, but at the same time, it’s best if duties are performed in the best possible manner. Although mistakes can always happen as was the case with us.
Have the both of you had any prior experience in the realm of public relations? If not, how did you rise to the challenge?
Kalani: As I was a member of the Interact Club back in school days, I had a little experience about Interact as well as Rotaract PR. Hence, it helped me a lot as PR coordinator.
Madhurya: No, I did not have any prior experience in public relations rather than the social media literacy any individual would have. I tried to learn some hacks and always sought support from the people who were more knowledgeable about the matter than me in order to learn and thus deliver what was expected of me.
What would you say are the challenges that the both of you faced when trying to manage the club’s public image? How would you say that you overcame them?
Kalani: The most challenging task was that everything was virtual! The pandemic made it really challenging to convey the club’s progress virtually. Getting public attention was an arduous task as the public was quite fed up with virtual platforms. As such, we had to make an extra effort to grab the attention of the public, which meant that our levels of creativity had to be better than just ‘good’.
Madhurya: Our biggest challenge this time around was basically the fact that interactions between Apsara and I could only occur through a virtual nature. Considering the fact we could not meet and work at campus much, it was always via phone. Both of us learnt how to be patient and keep calm when we worked on club matters and that’s how we overcame the challenges that came our way.
The both of you had to work together very closely as our public relations efforts required a lot of IT expertise as well. What was that experience like and what would you say is the best part about working alongside your partner?
Kalani: PR and IT goes hand in hand. The IT director was my saviour! If not for her, I wouldn’t have been able to face the challenging year we had. The best part of us working together was that we were able to closely share our ideas and build a strong friendship as well.
Madhurya: I must say, Apsara is a great person to work with! She is creative like hell and she never gives up even during times of technical difficulties such as the power cuts we’ve been experiencing quite frequently these past few weeks. I must confess however, when we had our calls, it was not only the club work, there was gossip too! I guess the loving friendship we built and the joy of working with one another made it easy for both of us to work in unison.
We reckon that everyone is beyond ecstatic about the announcement of your successors, Rtr. Sandanilu Amithabandu for Public Relations and Rtr. Oshini Hewawaduge for IT! How do you feel about this appointment? Is there anything that the both of you would like to convey to them? Advice from an outgoing Board Member is always a good heads up, we hear!
Kalani: We are really glad and happy about the upcoming board. Even Though the pandemic did not give us a chance to meet physically, I think they have chosen the best possible individuals for these positions. So, what I would like to convey is that a little creativity can go a long way and never be afraid to showcase the creativity!
Madhurya: First of all, heartiest congratulations! I hope that a chemistry similar to the one Apsara and I shared will occur between the both of you as well, since it is arguably the key factor which helped the both of us to work together so well. Before you do anything just have a little chit-chat with one another, and get both of your doubts solved. That will come in handy for sure!
Are there any areas that you would like to see an improvement in by your successors when it comes to PR efforts?
Kalani: I would like to see a growth in Public Relations beyond social media platforms because the pandemic limited our means of growing the public image of the public beyond virtual platforms. So, that would definitely be the area that I would love to see improvement in!
Madhurya: None that I can think of from an IT point of view. At least not yet. However, I would like to see them reaching further and higher heights than we ever did. I would like to wish the best of luck to our successors once again!
– Interview conducted by Rtr. Vibhath Jayasinghe & Rtr. Janidu Wijebandara
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